Grampa Presley, my dad’s dad, was a big guy. I remember him wearing overalls, always smiling, teasing my mom, my brother, and me. When I try to write about Grampa, memories come flooding through my mind and I can’t write them fast enough – at least so that they make sense.
Grampa would call himself a hillbilly. He was born in 1908 and lived much of his life in central Illinois and West Plains, Missouri. He gave his life to Jesus and was self-taught in the Scriptures. He also took classes in veterinary medicine. When I was growing up, he was the pastor of a little interdenominational church he planted – Hilltop Chapel – in West Plains. The church could not support him so he also had dairy cows.
I don’t remember much about him preaching, except the funny stories he told. One Sunday he had forgotten it was communion Sunday so he went to his store (He also ran a store to make ends meet. It was small, much like we’d view a Casey’s these days.) to pick up some grape juice. After the service, Gramma said, “Les, that grape juice tasted funny.” When he checked, she was right. He’d gotten prune juice!
Another time he was preaching on Jonah and said that “Jonah was in a whale of a belly!” Still true with the words turned around.
And then there was the time Gramma almost died of embarrassment when Grampa pulled out a red bandanna from his back pocket to wipe the sweat away. She always made sure he had a white handkerchief for those occasions! My brother tells me that Grampa was such a good preacher, he could take his false teeth out and wipe them off and stick them back in his mouth without ever stopping the sermon! I suppose, if people were paying attention, they’d notice. Perhaps that’s how he got them to pay attention!
When we’d go down and visit, I’d beg him to wake me up at 4:00 a.m. so I could go down to the milk barn with him and watch him milk. I loved to watch the cows waiting in line for their turn to be milked. I’d watch them walk in, stick their head in the feed bin, and then Grampa would let me move the lever to ‘lock’ them in. I loved it when he’d squirt the cat with fresh milk and she’d take hours to lick it all off her face! In the early days he milked by hand, but at some point he added a milking machine which did most of the work for him. I remember once touching the side of a milk can with my leg and being surprised. I told Grampa, “The milk’s hot!” and his reply, as he patted the cow, was “So’s old Bessie!” He named every one of those cows and called them by name and talked to them as they came into the barn. There was a big cooler in the milk barn where he’d put the cans to cool before they came to pick it up. Sometimes, in the summer, he’d have yellow meated watermelons in there for my mom (and me!) Mmmmmmmm.
The farm was nothing fancy, but it was a great place to love your grandparents. (It wasn’t until I was in junior high school that they added indoor plumbing!) In the summer, there were always wasps flying around the house. And Grampa liked to torment my brother by catching a wasp in his bare hands and then trying to give it to Loran. Grampa’s hands were large and calloused, so the sting of the wasp didn’t even register with him. In fact, my brother remembers him having the wasp sting him in his knuckles saying that it helped lessen the arthritis pain.
Loran was deathly afraid of wasps when he was young. He’s not real thrilled about them now either, but I remember many times watching him running from Grampa, and Grampa laughing and saying, “I just want to give you something.” One time he even fell down behind the bed trying to get away from Grampa.
Years later my brother was a preacher just like my Grampa – Preacher Presley. He remembered Grampa chasing him with the wasps. What he didn’t know at the time was that Grampa had plucked the stinger out of the wasp, so that even if he had taken the wasp in his hand, it wouldn’t have been able to hurt him. Grampa’s teasing illustrated the biblical truth:
I Corinthians 15:54-55 “But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O Death, Where is your sting?”
God has removed the stinger, and even though each of us are touched by the death of our loved ones, or even must face our own mortality, for those of us who are trusting in the shed blood of Jesus our Savior, death has no hold on us. Death has no sting.
God has the victory.